Richard Pratt writes:
The Bible is both the foundation upon which our defense must be built and one of our beliefs which must be defended (Every Though Captive, 4).
The apologetics’ task is like the relation between a king and his generals. It is the general’s responsibility to defend the king “even as apologetics defends the Bible” (4).
Richard Pratt writes in Every Though Captive (1979) that sometimes sense experience is suggested as a sphere of neutrality . “It is supposed,” he says, ” that the non-Christian sees and hears the same things the Christian does and that there is therefore a neutral ground on which to operate. Even so, we must remember that both may be exposed to the same information, Christians are committed to understanding that information as it is in light of God’s revelation, and non-Christians are committed to misconstruing the world in terms of their allegiance to independence (59).”
Jesus says: He who is not with me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters (Matthew 12:30).
In my later years my Christian faith was maturing. I was strong, and not even Screwtape’s tactics could bring me down. I was tempted, yes, but I was preserved by God’s grace.
My college days in the late 90’s were filled with enthusiasm. I had no doubt about the existence of the biblical God. My doubts had to do with the details of certain theological assumptions I held for years, but now were being shattered. You see, Christianity is a big tent within a short creed. We disagree quite a bit with one another, but we all affirm the same essentials. One of our early fathers taught us that in essentials, unity, in non-essentials, charity. I try to keep this in mind.
I have no doubt by now that you have all sorts of questions. You are probably asking: “Where are the arguments for the existence of God?” Well, one of my seminary professors taught me that those arguments have their place, but they are secondary to the main purpose of apologetic discourse. I am not opposed to having these discussions, but “obviously I cannot enter into a discussion of all the facts and all the reasons urged against belief in God. There are those who have made the Old Testament, as there are those who have made the New Testament, their life-long study. It is their works you must read for a detailed refutation of points of Biblical criticism. Others have specialized in physics and biology. To them I must refer you for a discussion of the many points connected with such matters as evolution.”
My position, however, is that even if you heard certain proof that some force did exist, you would still not call it the God of the Bible. Think of Anthony Flew. Christians are thrilled that he has abandoned his staunch atheism and now believes in a higher power. Do not misunderstand me; I am thrilled that he is no longer an atheist in the proper sense of the term. But what good is it to take the first step, if there are an infinite amount of steps to God? That gap can only be filled in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. He comes to earth, so He may raise you to the heavens.
It is true that some Christians will say that they will assume for the moment that God does not exist. They say this, in order to reach common ground with you, the atheist. But I have no intention to compromise my belief in God or to assume, even for a second that He does not exist. We do not share the same epistemology. I begin with God and you do not! My position is made clear in the words of Cornelius Van Til:
We really think you have colored glasses on your nose when you talk about chickens and cows, as well as when you talk about the life hereafter.Without such a God, without the God of the Bible, the God of authority, the God who is self-contained and therefore incomprehensible to men, there would be no reason in anything. No human being can explain in the sense of seeing through all things, but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all.
Why do I believe in God?– because He is the Revealer of true life. And He has revealed Himself to me in my infancy. His Word is true and it cannot be broken. In one sense, “I could not help believing in God — in the God of Christianity — in the God of the whole Bible!”
As I mentioned in the beginning, I am certain that this will not satisfy you, but at least now you know that for me it is reasonable to believe in God. You may consider all my statements “circular meanderings of a hopeless authoritarian. Well, my meanderings have, to be sure, been circular; they have made everything turn on God. So now I shall leave you with Him, and with His mercy.”
 The Apostle’s Creed is a great summary of catholic Christianity.
 Van Til, Why I believe in God.
My friend Joel McDurmon, author of Zeitgeist: The Movie Exposed was interviewed earlier today in the Detroit Christian Radio. The audience continues to be interested, if not, captivated by DaVinci Code-like documentaries. Zeitgeist was quite a hit with popular atheists, and even some Christians became “mystified” with such perplexing historical data. Bill Maher seems to have followed in the same path by producing “Religulous.” Religulous is a mere continuation of the Zeitgeist phenomenon, using the humor and wit of Bill Maher who amuses thousands. The argument made by these documentaries is fairly simple: There are many religious stories told of a man (Horus, as one example) born of a virgin, dying on a cross and being raised from the dead. Jesus’ story is very similar. Therefore, Jesus’ story is derived from other religious stories, thus making the Jesus’ story a mythical story.”
This line of reasoning is hardly persuasive. Because past events have similarities to future events, the conclusion is not that a future event must have copied a past event. As Joel pointed out, the problem with Zeitgeist (and other similar documentaries) is that these claims–that are said to be closely identical to Christ’s story– cannot be verified by any reliable source. Mr. McDurmon observes that many of these stories came from the mouths of few liberal 19th century critics who were dismissed as illegitimate even in their own day. The reality, as Joel observes, is that these are just re-hashing of old heresies.
The Messiah’s story is a historical story, as attested by over 500 witnesses. Even if such similar stories could be unearthed and proved authentic, yet the story of the resurrected Christ is utterly supreme. Unlike these so-called stories where a man was raised only to die again, in the Biblical story, Jesus is raised to exaltation.
These sorts of documentaries are successfully made and produced because there is a market for such ignorance. Christians need to acknowledge and assume at the outset that no historical data is neutral. The humanists will always twist history to affirm their own secular and anti-Christian ideologies. The fool says in his heart there is no god.
At 12 Central/1Eastern, I will be interviewing Joe Torres on presuppositional apologeticsat Trinity Talk.
Joe summarizes our interview as follows:
On Thursday, July 2nd, I’ll be discussing the topic of presuppositional apologetics on Trinity Talk with Uri and Jarrod.
Uri and I have known each other for several years now. We’ve worked together and attended seminary together. Now he’s a pastor, and i’m a professor. We have our theological disagreements, but we both love discussing them as iron sharpens iron.
In the interview we’ll be talking about something that’s view close to our hearts, a robust, powerful, and God-glorifying way of defending the faith. Here’s a sample of the kind of questions we’ll discuss:
a) What is apologetics?
b) What is presuppositional apologetics?
c) How does presuppositionalism differ with other apologetic positions?
d) How does a presuppositional apologetics answer charges from atheism?
Stanley fish argues to his largely atheistic NYT readership that the concept of assumptionless facts are not possible. He writes:
To bring all this abstraction back to the arguments made by my readers, there is no such thing as “common observation” or simply reporting the facts. To be sure, there is observation and observationcan indeed serve to support or challenge hypotheses. But the act of observing can itself only take place within hypotheses (about the way the world is) that cannot be observation’s objects because it is within them that observation and reasoning occur.
This was Van Til’ s primary emphasis in his writings. The very idea of brute facts strikes at the heart of irrational reasoning. Everyone has assumptions (Frame, Bahnsen). These assumptions form both the context and the culture of all human thinking. Hence, human thinking never begins in a tabula rasa (John Locke), it begins and ends in accordance to preconceived notions of politics, religion, etc.
Professor Fish’s Opinion article reflects–at least in my opinion– a reaction to the often abused usage of evidential and classical apologetics. Both of these forms assume a common ground, a neutrality in dialogue between believers and unbelievers. Ultimately as Van Til and R.J. Rushdoony argued, to compromise our revelatory faith for the sake of dialogue is a dangerous error.
The New-Atheism (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, etc.) has attracted plenty of theists to a round of debate. These theists have accepted the “common ground” argument. They appear to have fallen in the trap. The atheist simply begins with a plethora of arguments against the consequences of Christianity in society and conclude that “Christianity is not good for the world,” while the “common ground” theists come along and argue vociferously that the Inquisition was not a Christian cause and that Fundamentalists do not represent the mainstream of the Christian faith. But that is exactly where the atheist wants the Christian to be. He wants them to be in the defensive; always having to explain and re-exaplain the errors of his faith. This is why Fish’s approach to this matter is so refreshing. If you abandon your trinitarian assumptions for the sake of dialogue, you have abandoned the only true foundation and standard for all thinking.
Last year during the CREC General Council, I spent a weekend with Pastor Randy Booth. I have told many that those two days I received from Randy some of the most profitable pastoral insights I have ever received. Randy is the owner of Covenant Media Foundation. He continues to make available the audio works and books of the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen. When I was with him last year, he told me that they had found some manuscripts that Dr. Bahnsen had never completed. Joel McDurmon says that that manuscript was intended as a book that was edited by Gary North some decades ago. Nevertheless, in light of Bahnsen’s thoroughness in book writing and Gary North’s pressing Greg for the manuscript to be completed, Bahnsen was never able to use that manuscript for that particular book. Now, that manuscript is going to be published by American Vision in about eight weeks. It will serve to continue the faithful Biblical and Reformed understanding of apologetics.